Weight down. Cholesterol levels down. Cardiac ages improved by more than a decade.
Those are the health benefits Hugh and Bev Dayton credit to St. Elizabeth Healthcareâ€™s â€œTake Time for Your Heart Class.â€
Itâ€™s not about radical changes, said Hugh. â€œJust making minor adjustments in your diet and exercise program that you can live with long-term, rather than radical changes you canâ€™t live with. Thatâ€™s what makes the difference,â€ he said.
Bev said at the beginning of the class, her cardiac age was â€œ75 plus. At the end of the class, it was 53. And Iâ€™m 65.â€ Cardiac age, based on six key factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, estimates the risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years.
Hughâ€™s cardiac age dropped from 74 to 63 over the 10-week course, and he lost more than 10 pounds.
Simple changes add up to big differences
Keeping a food journal helped both make simple changes which added up to big differences. Bev will use just half a roll when she has a burger or wrap a piece of ham around cheese. â€œI really donâ€™t miss the bread,â€ she said. And theyâ€™ve switched to low-sodium ham.
â€œFor me, I was eating less calories than I should have been,â€ she said, and that was slowing down her metabolism. â€œFor my husband,â€ she added â€œâ€¦ serving size was a big deal. â€œFor example, Hugh would have a can of soup for lunch; however, one can of soup is 2 Â½ servings, which resulted in over 2,200 milligrams (mg) of sodium; more than a dayâ€™s allowance.â€
Salt was a lightning rod for Hugh. â€œThe amount of sodium in processed food is eye-opening. I was probably consuming 4,000 mg a day and now I limit it to about 1,500 as a result of the program,â€ said Hugh. Chicken pot pie at one of his regular restaurants has 2,400 mg of sodium, he learned. So, â€œI just stopped eating those things.â€
â€œI lowered my cholesterol by just watching what I was eating and I continued to lose weight, over 20 pounds,â€ said Hugh. â€œI learned about carbohydrates â€¦ I didnâ€™t cut anything out totally, I just reduced what I was eating, portion wise, and stopped eating ice cream after dinner.â€
And heâ€™s now joined Bev in reading food labels. When they eat out, they check ingredients and sodium levels on a fitness app.
â€œWhen weâ€™re out and we see something that is going to take a whole dayâ€™s allocation of carbohydrates or calories or salt, we choose something else or if we choose it, the rest of the day we might be more restrictive of what we eat,â€ said Hugh.
Seek peer support
â€œThe class really increased our knowledge of what we were really eating,â€ said Hugh. Bev added: â€œâ€¦another great benefit was â€˜peer supportâ€™ by sharing experiences with others and learning what worked for them.â€
â€œJoyce was great,â€ Bev said of St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute Nurse Navigator Joyce Jacobs, who teaches the course based on the book, â€œMayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life!â€
â€œShe was a wonderful instructor, very patient. She would let you ask questions; if she didnâ€™t have the answer, she would get the answer for you. She was outstanding.â€
Bev, who is able to control her diabetes without insulin, has also taken classes at the St. Elizabeth Regional Diabetes Center. Her endocrinologist Dr. Linda Hermiller is â€œthrilledâ€ that Bev had such a positive experience with the heart health class because specific tips allow patients to take specific steps.
â€œAny opportunity we have to touch a patient, to have contact with them and to get them to be more healthy is key. And if itâ€™s through the cardiovascular center project or if itâ€™s through the weight management center, or if itâ€™s through our center, if weâ€™re all on the same page with the same goal, all those different touches with a patient can get them going in the right direction,â€ said Dr. Hermiller.
Bev and Hugh take a â€œone-for-all and all-for-one approachâ€ to their health. Hugh â€œwent to support me because we have heart disease on my side of the family, but he really did learn some things that helped him as well,â€ said Bev.
Hugh adds that heâ€™s switched from salted nuts to lightly salted or no salt. But one thing he wonâ€™t change: â€œYou have to have salt on corn on the cob.â€
Bev commented: â€œThereâ€™s always room for improvement and weâ€™re still working toward a healthy future, but this class was a great investment of our time and we recommend it to our family and friends.â€
Click below to learn more aboutÂ “Take Time for Your Heart.”